Andersonville raises funds in name of ‘puppy love’

By Associate Editor

Several  businesses in the Andersonville  neighborhood recently teamed up to fundraise for a local nonprofit that helps children improve their literacy by reading aloud to dogs. 

SitStayRead, a nonprofit that has worked with children in the Chicago Public Schools system since 2003, offers programming in low-income neighborhoods and classrooms with low literacy rates by using volunteer dogs to increase a child’s confidence while reading, according to its website.

“They are very successful in doing what they do,” said JT Murray, co-owner of home interior store Murray & White, 5416 N. Clark St., and one of the fundraiser’s organizers. “It was a really cool idea—I never thought about how children reading to dogs would help them. It lowers all their guard [and] a dog doesn’t judge them when they’re reading.”

The fundraiser, which took place Feb. 1–13, garnered participation from more than 10 Andersonville businesses that either contributed gift baskets or agreed to sell raffle tickets, according to a Feb. 1 press release on the Andersonville neighborhood’s official website. 

The three gift baskets raffled off included merchandise worth more than $1,250 each, according to Murray. 

Though the final amount raised through raffle tickets was unavailable as of press time, Murray said he estimates several hundred dollars were raised in his store alone.

Murray said he, as well as Rachel Meyering, owner of Sparkles Fine Jewelry at 5405 N. Clark St., and Lesley Bramson, manager of Spex Optical at 5408 N. Clark St., discussed the idea of a “puppy love”-themed charity event for Valentine’s Day when SitStayRead was mentioned.

Kate McIlvain, program director at SitStayRead, said she was approached by the business owners and managers organizing the event to have them receive the funds, adding that this is one of the largest  fundraisers organized on its behalf.

“It feels great to have community support and know the businesses in Andersonville are as excited about our mission [and] are on the same page as we are in terms of helping to make Chicago a more beautiful city because of our shared interest in improving literacy rates here,” McIlvain said. 

McIlvain said the money gained from the fundraiser will go toward supporting the organization’s programs, such as purchasing “high-quality” books for the CPS students as well as training services for its volunteers.

Sarah Ghorbanian, owner of RE:Chiropractic who donated to the raffle and gave raffle tickets to loyal patients, said she was happy to become involved after learning about the work of SitStayRead. She added that her business has made a concerted effort to donate to local causes since opening in 2014.

“It’s OK to make money, but we all have to give a piece of that back,” Ghorbanian said. “We have to do our part.”

Ghorbanian added that it is important for members of the community to see local business owners collaborating to support one cause.

“We’re all a united front in Andersonville,” she said. “We’re all friends. We all shop and support each other. We’re not all just for ourselves [and] really forwarding the message of successful local business.”